Working with people with degenerative brain diseases has its challenges and takes a person who’s compassionate, patient, and versatile - someone such as Kelli Krusinger. As the memory care director at Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso, Krusinger never dreamed of having this career, but absolutely loves the position she is in.
“There aren’t many jobs that you get to come in and sing, make art and play trivia,” Krusinger said.
Krusinger joined the Rittenhouse team four years ago as a receptionist and jumped at every opportunity for growth at the senior living center. Even though this was her first job in the senior living care industry, it wasn’t long before Krusinger started helping out with activities with residents, which only added to her passion for helping the elderly.
“This was when I realized this was the job for me - it was my niche,” she said. “It’s become my passion in a career that I never thought I’d have.”
Growing up, Krusinger’s mother instilled an appreciation for the elderly. She recalls visiting with relatives frequently as a kid, which is what may have sparked her passion for her career path today.
“She would take us to visit our relatives and spend time with them,” she said. “I think it just comes from that.”
When the memory care director position became available two years ago, Krusinger was eager to bring her ideas and passion to the opportunity.
“Being the memory care director has totally changed my life,” Krusinger said. “Every day I feel like I’m getting more out of it than they are. It’s a job that gives back, and I feel like I’m making a difference.”
As memory care director, Krusinger keeps residents in the program active through the activities she strategically plans. However, that doesn’t mean those plans are set in stone. One thing she’s noticed in her time as a memory care director is that music is universal to all residents.
“We have an event calendar of what we’re going to do throughout the day. This morning, we started out doing exercises with residents. This afternoon, we’re having a sing-a-long and doing trivia,” she said. “Some days I think I have found a great activity that they’ll love. Then we get it going and no one is interested. So we put on some show tunes and played kickball for an hour. They get very competitive. It’s great to see.”
Krusinger uses tools such as Rittenhouse’s SHINE program, which acts as a sort of resident profile, that allows her and the memory care team to better serve and get to know their residents on a more personal level. It gives the Rittenhouse team information about things such as where they grew up, their occupation, their families, and major life events.
“With dementia, a person will revert to a different point in their life. These memories can be very, very vivid and that resident profile helps us to know if they’re talking about a certain place or maybe about pets,” Krusinger said. “We can look at those notes in the profile and know what they’re talking about. It’s wonderful. They love that we can continue a conversation that we know what they’re talking about. You just see a spark in their eye,” said Krusinger. “They know they’re forgetting things when they’re speaking, and we want them to know that they are whole, smart, strong, and loved.”
It’s easy to say that working at Rittenhouse has changed Krusinger’s life. She says there’s a lot of things she loves about her job, but by far, the residents and her team in the memory care unit are at the top of the list.
“I love the fact that there are places like this for people to be able to go, especially with dementia,” Krusinger said. “This is a place that has people on the team that love what they’re doing and are here for the right reasons.”
For more information on Rittenhouse Village at Valparaiso and their memory care services, click here.